Hosokawa Speech Sets New Path for Japan Premier Sees 'Once-in-a-Millenium Chance,' at Cold War's End, to Redesign Political System

Article excerpt

TWO weeks into office, Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa has set out a vision to end Japan's long "political vacuum."

In a policy statement before parliament yesterday, Mr. Hosokawa said he will create a new political structure by year's end aimed at helping Japan deal with such issues as its economic uncertainty and the "scars" left on Japanese politics by the cold war.

"Our more important task right now is that of restoring the popular trust in government," said Hosokawa, who enjoys a high popularity as leader of a seven-party coalition.

Critics quickly pointed out his lack of details, a sign of the wide differences within a coalition quickly thrown together to replace the conservative Liberal Democratic Party this month.

In fact, Hosokawa had not wanted to give this policy speech when he took office on Aug. 9 but was forced to do so in a compromise with the LDP. He was noisily heckled by LDP members during the speech.

"I find it hard to believe that bureaucrats did not write his speech," said LDP President Yohei Kono. The LDP will ask questions of Hosokawa in parliament tomorrow, hoping to split the coalition on divisive issues.

Unlike the LDP, which ruled Japan for 38 years, Hosokawa threw Japan's support behind an extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which expires in 1995. The LDP had waffled on an extension, raising fears that Japan wanted an option to develop nuclear weapons.

And Hosokawa apologized candidly for Japan's wartime past. But his words were toned down slightly from his previous remark that Imperial Japan had engaged in a "war of aggression." The backtracking followed criticism for upsetting war veterans who thought they had been fighting for noble ideals. In a nuanced shift, Hosokawa implied that Japan's aggression was only part of its wartime past.

"I would ... like to take this opportunity to express anew our profound remorse and apologies for the fact that past Japanese actions, including aggression and colonial rule, caused unbearable suffering and sorrow for so many people, and to state that we will demonstrate our new determination by contributing more than ever before to world peace," he said. …